An opinion from the Minnesota Court of Appeals sheds light on the perils residential landlords face when crafting non-standard lease terms on their own. While St. Paul and other cities have their own nuances, certain Minnesota law applies regardless of the location of the property.
Here's the short version of the horror story: Landlord crafts a lease term that acts as a penalty if the tenant's dog goes to the upstairs level of the house. The penalty is that the landlord retains a deposit specific to damage caused by the dog. Tenant's dog goes upstairs, landlord learns of it, and at the end of the lease, the landlord kept the $2,500 additional deposit.
Tenant sues the landlord in conciliation court and wins. Landlord removes it to district court and tenant wins again. Tenant was actually also awarded punitive damages allowed by statute in the amount of $500.00 and $12,500 in attorney's fees as the court deemed Landlord's retention of the penalty amount was done in bad faith.
In sum, in this case over a seemingly simple clause, the landlord spent months in litigation, paid the tenant $13,000, and spent hours upon hours of time on a lost cause. One call to me and the entire thing could have been avoided. This is a scenario I can handle regardless where you, the landlord is physically located. You would much rather make one phone call than go through what the landlord above went through.
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